- Lars Hamers
A war on two fronts
Another week, another news summary. April has arrived, already the fourth month of the year. April gets its name from the Latin word aperio, “to open”, because plants start to grow in this period.
Plants not only fulfil important tasks related to our food supply, they also enhance human well-being. This week, the yearly World Happiness Report was published in which the happiness of more than 150 countries was ranked across the world. Nordic countries have been occupying the top spots of this list for years. All these countries contain a relatively large number of nature areas, which is no coincidence. However, besides nature, many other factors play an important role in a country’s happiness level. Finland, the happiest country in the world for the sixth year in a row, contains many other significant factors related to happiness: a healthy life expectancy, a high GDP per capita, social support, low corruption and accessible education.
In stark contrast to this ‘happy’ news is the harsh reality of the war in Ukraine. Although the war has been going on for more than 400 days now, peace still seems a long way off. On the contrary, things seem to be getting more and more complicated. China is starting to play a more prominent role in the war since their proposal for a peace plan. However, China’s efforts have been distrusted by western countries and specifically the United States. The relationship between the United States and China has deteriorated dramatically since a balloon was spotted in US airspace that was believed to be a Chinese espionage tool. Moreover, the US-China conflict in Taiwan, with at its core the computer chip industry, has increased tensions even more.
Two weeks ago, Xi Jinping met Vladimir Putin in person to strengthen their ties and to discuss China’s peace plan. China’s efforts for peace are a good initiative, but it is regrettable that Xi Jinping has not yet talked to Volodymyr Zelenski about the peace plan despite the urging of western countries. Besides, it is hard to consider China an independent mediator in this conflict, because of China’s involvement in Taiwan.
Besides the war in Ukraine, a second war is raging: the war against climate change. IPCC’s latest report delivers a “final” warning that global temperature rise must be limited to 1.5 degrees. Passing this threshold will lead to “irreversible” changes to the world: places will become unlivable due to extreme weather and sea level rises. For more details on this and the latest IPCC report, read last week’s Sunday Summary by Chloé Lepatre.
Fortunately, recently, a step forward has been taken by the United Nations by adopting a landmark resolution on climate justice. This resolution lays the foundation for establishing a legal test that holds countries legally accountable for failing to tackle climate change. The resolution is considered a legal opinion of the international court of justice (ICJ) that is not legally binding in domestic courts, but it is seen as a necessary first step in fighting climate injustice on an international level. The resolution was supported by 120 countries except the US. At first, this American attitude raised questions in my mind, but things became a lot clearer after looking at recent US decisions concerning fossil fuels.
Joe Biden, self-proclaimed “climate president”, opened an auction to drill 73 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas. Furthermore, Biden has hypocritically approved a huge multi-decade-long oil and gas drilling project in Alaska. This approval has angered Alaska Native communities, who fear that this project will undermine food security, endanger wildlife and accelerate climate change. The Netherlands, another ‘developed’ country, is believed to spend billions of euros on fossil fuel projects. According to Extinction Rebellion, the Dutch government spends 17.5 billion on fossil fuel projects, an amount that is three times as big as the Dutch public money spent on climate change.
I wish that things were different, I would have loved to see the US and the Netherlands take the lead in the global fight against climate change. However, in reality, a lot of rich countries are unwilling to take responsibility for their climate-unfriendly behaviour in the present and in the past.
Inhabitants of many ‘developed’ countries such as the Netherlands and the US have a massive carbon footprint due to their exorbitant way of living. In 2020, an Oxfam report stated that the richest 10% of the global population was responsible for about 52% of global emissions over the period between 1990 and 2015. Still, instead of decarbonising, ‘developed’ countries keep investing in fossil fuel projects. Hopefully, soon, the most polluting countries will take responsibility for their actions and make the greatest efforts in tackling climate change.